Suffering Sucks

Recently, many friends have approached me with hearts full of sadness. So this is my response to them. It is not a letter of advice because I do not think I am qualified to give that, but merely a personal narrative.

There have been times in my life when I have woken up everyday to the dreaded feeling. That feeling in your heart, like an anchor is strapped to your chest. It has many causes: an awful job, relationship troubles, or just plain old human pride. It also comes from wanting what I am not ready to receive, grasping for what does not belong to me, or thinking I am entitled to what I am not… and I have lived long enough to know that suffering comes almost exclusively from within (almost).

What do I do on those days? The days that I wake up with my heart in a knot? The days that I feel a stone hanging from a string from my chest? I fight it of course. I fight with myself, I fight with God, I fight with people who annoy me… I just fight. That is my reaction. I am a fighter. In the good ways and in the bad ways.

Why? Because suffering sucks. No one likes to suffer, me the least of all. I’m the one who prays to God to “just rip off the band- aid” and get lessons I need to learn over with. Now, I do have a pretty good pain tolerance… just ask the dentist who thought he numbed me when he yanked two teeth out of my mouth (he didn’t). Or the poor nursing student who, when drawing blood, went through my vein. Twice. I, of course, did not whimper. (Mostly because I felt bad for her) However, there is a catch: my pain tolerance only lasts for short periods of time. This is why I was a sprinter in track, and why I was a rower. I can do anything… for about seven minutes. Then we have problems.

The problem with heart pain is, it doesn’t just go away. Not without making us suffer just a bit longer than we’re comfortable with. In my experience, pain does not go away until I accept it. I have to lean into it, I have to be grateful for it, but most of all I have to discover the lesson that God is trying to teach me. Only then will I have grown.

2 Corinthians 7:9-10 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

There is always a reason. There is always a reason why we are being stretched, sometimes tortured. That restlessness which lives within us is not something to be fought but must be harnessed. My mother always told us that my Abuela had a saying, that we must control our minds before our minds control us. I find this to be true with my heart as well. It must be kept under control, despite well meaning friends imploring, “You can’t help what you feel!” “You are feeling that way for a reason, don’t fight it!” I have said these things as well, and to a point they are true, but we must harness our emotions as well as our imaginations, and we must look at suffering for what it is. It is a training for the obstacles we have yet to overcome, it is an alarm clock alerting us to what is wrong in our lives, and it is the tug of our Savior, drawing us close so that we may rest in him alone.
1 Corinthians 10:13   No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
1 Peter 5:9-10   Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Pain is a kindly, hopeful thing, a certain proof of life, a clear assurance that all is not yet over, that there is still a chance. But if your heart has no pain — well, that may betoken health, as you suppose: but are you certain that it does not mean that your soul is dead?  ~ A.J. Gossip

God bless you, my brothers and sisters in Christ! Fight the good fight, and fight well.
 

 

 

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God Wouldn’t Make People Gay if it Was a Sin?

Today I would like to address a statement that was thrown around after the publication of an article from this blog on the very popular Chastity Project Blog. After reading about my friend Jake, who experiences Same Sex Attraction and has found peace and love in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, many readers felt that it was “so sad” that Jake would be “unable” to “live a full life”, and that the Church was just “so bad” for denying Jake what is clearly a God given right, the joys of a romantic relationship with whomever he should choose.

I’m going to try to make this really clear. I’m even going to put it in capital letters, but don’t feel like I’m yelling at you. I’m not yelling.

BEING GAY IS NOT A SIN. ACTING ON IT IS.

God “makes” people certain ways all the time that he doesn’t want us to act upon. It’s called a cross. In Christian circles, a cross is often referred to as a struggle that one must carry throughout life.

Here are some examples of crosses that many people are called to carry, but called NOT to act upon.

Many people suffer from Depression; it is a combination of life experiences, hormonal imbalances, and natural (usually obsessive or anxious) tendencies that cause depression. Being depressed is not a sin, but committing suicide, or hurting yourself or others, is a sin.

Many people are naturally inclined to anger. Being angry is not a sin, acting out on it in a way that is unnecessary and hurtful is.

Many people (myself included) suffer from Anxiety. Being anxious is not a sin; acting on it in a way that makes one cold, hardened, and controlling, and therefore hurts others is a sin.

Many people struggle with pornography, which is a result of struggling with lust. Desiring sexual intimacy is not a sin, using others in order to gratify your desires is a sin.

God makes people with these crosses all the time. Actually, every single one of us is made with a disordered inclination (or a few) that we need to work our entire lives to control. This is the path to Christian perfection. Just because we are “born this way” (thank you Lady Gaga) doesn’t mean we have the “right” to act on it. A question that I get when I speak to young people about abstinence is, “But haven’t you wanted to have sex with your boyfriends?” The answer shouldn’t be shocking at all. Of course I wanted to have sex with them, that is why I dated them… I was attracted to them, they were attracted to me, I found out they were a good person, they love Jesus…Bam- the recipe for a great potential sexual partner. (aka. Husband)

But here is the catch… just because we want to do something doesn’t mean we should do it. Especially if it would disrespect the dignity of another or myself- and in comes the Catholic definition of chastity:

2339 Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery, which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.126 “Man’s dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end.”127

2349 “People should cultivate [chastity] in the way that is suited to their state of life. Some profess virginity or consecrated celibacy, which enables them to give themselves to God alone with an undivided heart in a remarkable manner. Others live in the way prescribed for all by the moral law, whether they are married or single.”136 Married people are called to live conjugal chastity; others practice chastity in continence:

There are three forms of the virtue of chastity: the first is that of spouses, the second that of widows, and the third that of virgins. We do not praise any one of them to the exclusion of the others. . . . This is what makes for the richness of the discipline of the Church.137

137: St. Ambrose, De viduis 4,23:PL 16,255A.

The above is taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and is by far not exhaustive, there are many more passages regarding chastity. However, there is not much regarding Homosexuality. It is treated as any other disordered passion, including lust, pornography, etc.   Here is what its says:

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,141 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.

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.

That last paragraph (2359) could easily replace the words “Homosexual persons” with any of our names.

“Janelle is called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teaches her inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, she can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

That is not just for me, or people who struggle with SSA (I dislike defining people by their sexual orientation, or referring to them as gay), this is for each and every one of us. Right now, broader society is really bringing attention to this particular group. Soon I am sure people who struggle with polygamy, pedophilia, and other disordered tendencies will make their rounds much like those who support pornography and prostitution have in the past and still do. It is what it is. Our responsibility is to continue to live out chastity, continue to proclaim the Truth, and continue to hold our brothers and sisters to the highest accountability and respect.

In the same way that the Church and faithful friends help Jake to remain accountable, Jake also helps me, as a woman who experiences sexual attraction, to remain accountable to my vow of abstinence until marriage. None of us is better than the other nor are our disordered inclinations more or less holy. We are all just people dealing with various struggles, and we need to come alongside each other to help bring each of us closer to Christ. This is the true purpose of our lives.

“So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.13For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.14Do everything without grumbling or questioning,15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,among whom you shine like lights in the world,16as you hold on to the word of life, so that my boast for the day of Christ may be that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.17But, even if I am poured out as a libationupon the sacrificial service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with all of you.18In the same way you also should rejoice and share your joy with me” – Philippians 2:12-18

Joy and Suffering in the Christian Life

The other day I was driving with my little sister, and I was in kind of a down mood, made all the worse thinking about how ridiculous it is that I should feel even slightly unhappy despite all of the wonderful gifts the Lord has given me, which therefore sent my slightly down mood into a plummeting spiral of unhappiness because now I feel bad for feeling bad when so much in my life is good. Catholic Guilt is real, ya’ll.

However, as I was struggling with this spider web of guilt I realized something- joy comes from God, not circumstances… if this sounds obvious to you, be patient with me, I’m a type A who subconsciously believes that if I can control everything I will be happy. However as we get older we realize that this is not true NOR do we want it to be true. If I controlled everything my life would be a catastrophe. It is definitely best left up to the Lord.

We are all searching for something that can only be found at the feet of Jesus. There are times in our lives when joy is administered to us in doses that are slightly less than we would appreciate, for whatever reason. In Christian circles this is often called the “dark night of the soul” or “a spiritual desert”. Either way, it stinks and we don’t like it. And, if you are like me, you spend a greater portion of your energy trying to wrestle away from it.

However, the Holy Spirit led me in a different direction that day, he brought me to the awareness that perhaps this is just a time of growth for me. Perhaps the Lord wants me to lean in to the struggle, instead of trying to get out. Or perhaps he wants me to lean back and let the God of the Universe control my motions… as if I were floating in the sea of his love. Perhaps I really don’t know what is best for me.

I remember back when I was rowing for UCF, and at the end of my physical therapy sessions after practice I had to get in the ice baths for ten minutes. Oh how I HATED the ice baths! I begged for my trainers to shorten the time, I begged to go into the hot tub instead, I’m pretty sure I would have been willing to barter my firstborn if only time would just please, please tick along faster! However, my lovely trainer Craig would just shoot me a not so patient, “Get in there and stop whining” and walk away to leave me in my misery. Of course, it was exactly what I needed, my muscles did heal and during those months I accomplished goals I never thought my body was capable of.

Healing and growth are never easy. In fact, they are usually painful, but always necessary. These dark hours are also reminders that we are nothing without Christ. We, in many ways must accept the lot that we are given. (Oooh does that make red blooded Americans cringe!) Not that we should be contented to a life of misery- certainly not, but once a person has done what is in their power to live a happy and healthy life, the rest is up to the Lord. This realization and acceptance has brought me incredible joy, because it has helped me to realize that I am like a preborn infant with an umbilical chord to Christ. Without him, I shrivel away. The only thing I have control over is the choice to follow Jesus each day. Aside from that, I have nothing to worry about, because I belong to him. And there is so much joy in that.

Stop Acting Like the Emperor Has Clothes on When He’s Naked

Emperor's new clothes

The following is adapted from the tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Andersen

One day long ago, in an Empire far, far away, there was an Emperor, and he was approached by two tailors. They promised to make him the most beautiful, exquisite clothes, which would not be able to be seen by anyone stupid or inferior. The Emperor agreed, and once the clothes were made he went to see them. When he arrived at the shop, he only saw two mannequins, with no clothes on them. The tailors were actually thieves, and they had made no clothes. However, the Emperor, not wanting to look stupid or inferior, praised the Tailors for their fine work and applauded them for the delicate embroidery. He decided to have a parade through his Empire, so that all could admire the clothes.

Despite the fact that he was naked, the entire city, not wanting to be perceived as stupid or inferior, pretended to admire the clothes- and murmured amongst them how beautiful the Emperor’s new clothes were! This continued until finally, one little boy cried out loudly, “The Emperor is naked! He isn’t wearing any clothes!” Finally, the entire city realized that he was right, including the Emperor. The Emperor was in fact, naked.

When I heard this story repeated on the radio a few days ago, I was shocked when I realized that this is how our society has been fooled. In order to avoid appearing “intolerant” or “backwards” we have agreed to ignore a myriad of obvious truths, such as, “Babies in the womb are human” or “The birth control pill causes cancer” or “God exists”. Even when a seemingly endless array of scientific data, research, and theories prove these things and many others- we continue to ignore the obvious, because we want to be tolerant. We want to be open- minded. It’s like we are pretending the Law of Gravity doesn’t exist and everyone is moon walking all over the place to make it true. As if we ever really could.

Truth is objective. So lets try and find the truth instead of imagining it, for the sake of reason.

In honor of Memorial Day this week: (an excerpt taken from “America the Beautiful”)

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

 

Insulting Abortion Page Removed From Facebook!

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I just got notification that this awful, disgusting page was removed- thank goodness! Guys, if there is something out there that is just plain wrong… say something! This page was clearly insulting Christians and all those who believe Jesus made a positive impact on the world, and it was also making abortion fodder for its hatred! Abortion, which is not only the heinous murder of a child but also the cause of so much heartbreak and sadness for men and women who feel they have no choice but to undergo one. To essentially make fun of this is despicable.

Everyone has the right to an opinion, they are like bellybuttons, and we know this. However, everyone also has the responsibility to express his or her opinion in a sensible and defensible manner. Lets please do so going forward.

If God Hasn’t Revealed His Plan, Keep Asking

Today we are going to talk about prayer. More importantly, we are going to talk about the way God responds to us when we pray. Recently I have heard people say, when asking what God has revealed to them when praying abut a certain situation, “ Well, God has pretty much left the decision up to me.” (Insinuating that God supposedly doesn’t have an opinion one way or another). I mean, sure, God does leave pretty much everything up to us- its part of the whole “free will” thing. But God also has his own will. I am going to attempt, as well as I can, to not describe God as if I (or anyone) truly can- but when it comes to whether or not there is a right or wrong decision to be made (This is concerning something important, not what toothpaste to use or which type of burgers to buy at the grocery store –> that answer is always BUBBA BURGERS!)… it seems, biblically, that God has a road on which He would like us to go, and pretending not to see that road when approaching a fork usually means that He is telling us something we don’t want to hear.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. “- Jeremiah 29:11

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”–Prov. 3:5-6

“And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”- Isaiah 58:11

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” –Psalm 27:14

In the Christian walk, there are certainly times where it seems the Lord is utterly silent and distant and you have no idea where He is or what He is doing (this is part of our purification process and it is good, even though it stinks at the time!) (“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthian 10:13) However, this lack of response or distance from God doesn’t seem to be the constant. (“Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24) It may be so for particular periods of difficulty, but it always seems that God’s will is revealed in the end.

While there are thousands of various ways to pray, prayer, in the Christian sense, is meant to be a conversation. A conversation is where one person speaks and the other responds. (“At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved.” Daniel 9:23) There are two parties to a conversation. God speaks to us in a multitude of ways, indeed, however it pleases Him. He speaks most especially (according to the testimony of various Saints) through hardship (“If there be a true way that leads to the Everlasting Kingdom, it is most certainly that of suffering, patiently endured.” — St. Colette), but also through adoration, other people, music, books, realizations, apparitions, and visions; as well as direct dialogue while journaling or in quiet prayer, or in the silent places in the depths of your heart, where the Holy Spirit reigns and where you feel His presence.

God wants communion with us, He adores us, and He wants us to know him, even as He knows us and was willing to lay down His life for us. Will we make the attempt to truly know Him? “‘Many cry to God, but not with the voice of the soul, but with the voice of the body; only the cry of the heart, of the soul, reaches God.’” –St. Augustine.

It was once shared with me that God is the perfect combination of the masculine and the feminine. We can see His masculinity in the strong sequoia trees that rise solid and strong above the earth, masking many in its shade. We can see His femininity in the beauty of a field of wildflowers, delicate yet glorious and moving. How many times have hikers climbed up to untraveled heights, encountering breathtaking scenes of beautiful landscapes? Who sees that? God delights in decorating the Earth and showering it in his majesty, the way women enjoy making each part of a house a home- even if it seems hardly anyone will see or appreciate it.

While I am not an expert in prayer (or much else for that matter), I could say that I have enough experience in being a woman to be somewhat of an expert in that. The thing about women is, deep down inside, in the deep recesses of our hearts, we want to be known. And even more than that, we want to be delighted in. (Boys, let me know if this resonates with you). God has this quality. He wants us to know and delight in Him.

“Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.” –Psalm 43:4

May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.”- Psalm 104:34

“…then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.’ The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”-Isaiah 58:14

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,”- 1 Peter 1:8

In prayer, in communion, adoration, mass, or any other time that we spend in the worship of our Creator, we are learning more about who He is, and we are delighting in God our Savior. Yes, this can include petition, intercession, supplication, etc- but it could also include mutual sharing and loving and delighting in one another. A Priest once advised me, when I was in a particularly anxious time of my life, to simply sit at the fountain of Jesus’ love and mercy; and to allow myself to be filled with His love for me.

That’s all. He told me to just sit and let Jesus love me and to love Him back.

While this is often much easier said than done, it is my prayer that each of us experiences this type of communion with the Holy Trinity. Let us be open to knowing and acknowledging Him with all of our hearts and let us be patient in waiting on the Lord to reveal Himself to us.

Rape

Upon hearing about the murder of Emmett Till as we were discussing the Civil Rights Movement in history class, one of my more troubled students muttered, “If he had known that that was going to happen he should have just raped her.”

My shock rendered me speechless, so I was only able to mumble something stupid like, “He didn’t know what was going to happen…” How I wish I could go back in time.

This response to a horrific act of murder, saying that it would have been worth it had the woman in question been raped, is the consequence of a society that has completely ruined sex for those who don’t have parents to raise them and teach them the true meaning of the gift. This distorted view of sex is not helped by shows such as Game of Thrones, which recently boasted an incestual rape scene, which the director said, “…became consensual at the end…” (If you choose to watch it, you can clearly see that there was no consent.)

I am deeply troubled at the world that is being created. Of course, rape is not a 21st century invention, and I don’t pretend to think that sex, for every person, has always been free, total, faithful and fruitful as it should be. However, can we at least try for that? Can we at least try to create a world in which this incredible act of procreation and bonding between a man and a woman be between two people who desire it, give themselves completely to each other, and only each other? Can we just try?

Please, if you have been a victim of this gruesome crime, know that it is not your fault, ever. Call this Hotline, or look up more information and resources that are available to you at the same link.

I Don’t Want Reproductive “Freedom”

If I have to make the choice between being a baby and milk machine for the rest of my life or having the decision to abort and use contraceptives, I choose the former, every time. Bringing life into this world is far more worthwhile of a calling than even having the option of ending the life of my child and using group 1 carcinogens (hormonal and oral contraceptives cause cancer) on my body (this list also includes the Nicotine compound, known as N’-Nitrosonornicotine (NNN), meaning oral contraceptives are on the same list as cigarettes).

Fortunately, I don’t have to choose between those two options, as there is now the gift of the Natural Family Planning, including NaPro technology, which is an idiot proof way of determining whether or not you are fertile. Yes indeed, planning your pregnancies naturally has never been easier or safer!

Now, before I am accused of committing treason against my gender, you should know that I believe women are equal to men in merit and intelligence and all that jazz.

I just also happen to not find killing babies justifiable, in any circumstance.

If you are tremendously offended at one or more of the statements above, take a cold hard look at why this sets you on fire. Does the idea of not being able to do whatever you want with your body just make you red with anger? Well, in a country where you can’t even attempt to kill yourself without being committed into an institution (the nerve!), how can we have the ability to kill a child?

If you, right now, are about to even THINK about using the word “viable” in an argument against this, please stop- go volunteer in a nursery, and then get back to me. Children are not viable until they are about 5 years old. Get over this argument. If you are about to say, well it’s not a person; it’s just a clump of cells! Again, stop, give yourself a hard slap in the face, and then ask yourself the question, “What am I? What is every living thing?” Thank God for science. And then lets think, “What can two humans create?” The only answer being, obviously, another human. So the growing clump of cells CAN ONLY be a growing human. Humans cannot grow anything else. Unless it’s an abnormal growth, which would be growing inside of you NOT because of the contributions of another human (unless its an STD…) but because of other reasons… and, obviously, that abnormal growth won’t pop out 9 months later with ten fingers and toes and a personality to boot. Ain’t nothing abnormal about the fact that sex makes babies. You don’t need a college degree to figure that one out.

Here’s the good news, if you would prefer not to have a child, you have a few options: first, don’t have sex. Second, use contraceptives (Oh wait, they don’t work all the time, as noted author and former Planned Parenthood Clinic director Abby Johnson informs us, as she got pregnant THREE TIMES while on contraceptives, and she was considered an expert! Off the list.) Second, use your brain to learn about your body and determine when you (or your wife) are fertile so that you and your loving spouse can plan intimacy accordingly. There are many gynecologists and family planning experts at various Churches and institutions across the United States. Google them. Third, don’t have sex. Oh wait.

Since I can already hear the tirade of morons chirping, “You think sex is bad! You are getting your ideas from an archaic institution that needs to get with the times!” Stop it. Sex is wonderful. I’m very excited to have it. The intimacy of the marital union is something that is unparalleled on this earth and the fact that GOD CREATED IT AND ORDAINED IT (and because the Lord ordains it the Catholic Church does too, so…) makes it even better. It’s good. SEX IS A GOOD THING. I am not saying otherwise.

However, it is something to be participated in responsibly. And the lack of such responsibility should not be greeted with the option to murder a baby human. So you can keep that freedom.

Please Note: While I absolutely welcome comments and discussion, please keep them intelligent and respectful, free from cursing and nonsense. Thank you!

Cohabitation and Engagement

This week’s guest writer, James Rooney is proof that the Holy Spirit is intimately involved with the inner workings of your life and will do anything, and use anyone to bring you closer to him.  I am so honored that this blog was chosen by God to play a role in building a stronger marriage for James and Alyssa.  Their story is an inspirational example that it is never too late to begin following God’s will in your relationship. James and Alyssa were married November 2013.

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The Holy Spirit has taken me for a spiritual roller coaster ride these last couple months and for that I would like to thank the Holy Ghost and blame Janelle!! J Seriously though, I am so grateful for my sister in Christ having tasked me with the writing of this blog. It has forced me to take a long hard look at my spiritual life and remedy the sinful nature of my relationship. When I was initially asked to write this blog on chastity and engagement I thought Janelle knew my fiancé and I were living together. I proceeded to write a draft of my blog and sent it to her. She informed me she couldn’t post anything condoning cohabitation, which in turn motivated me to contemplate even more about the state in which I was living and the damage I was causing to my relationship by continuing to live contrary to what I believed was right. I figured it would be ok for my fiancé and I to live together so long as we weren’t engaging in sexual activity. Long story short, I called off the engagement and we separated shortly thereafter. The following couple months would be full of heartache and spiritual growth, both for myself and my fiancé Alyssa.

  I think it is important to first understand how the Catholic Church defines cohabitation, which is exactly how it is defined in the dictionary. Cohabitation is living in a sexual relationship with your significant other as if married without legal or religious sanction. I justified living with my fiancé because we were not having sex. However, there are two parts of that definition. Though we weren’t having sex, we were still living ‘as if married.’ I’m not even going to begin making excuses for why Alyssa and I decided to move in together. It was a whole series of events and circumstances that led us to make that decision and I admit it could have been avoided if we had been willing to live with those events and circumstances. Now that hindsight is 20/20, we gave up certain hardships to take on a monumentally more difficult one. Remaining chaste while living under the same roof was far more difficult than I had anticipated.  

Why is it so difficult? Why is remaining chaste so important if you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will be marrying this person? If we started fooling around, there is no sense in stopping now right? The damage has been done hasn’t it? And there is no way either one of us is moving out now that we have a place together, which would be ridiculous. Well that’s what I used to think. And with the permission of my ever loving fiancé, she has allowed me certain liberties so that I may share a little about her life as well as my own.

We had both previously been in sexually active relationships throughout our high school careers and college. I had only been with one person ever, in a relationship that spanned the better part of 6 years. I had been raised Catholic and I guess I harbored some good old fashioned Catholic guilt so for the longest time my girlfriend and I refrained from actual intercourse and just did everything else as if that was better in some way. I also convinced myself that it didn’t matter if my girlfriend and I were sexually active because we “KNEW” beyond the shadow of a doubt that we would be married one day. HA! As the years went on our relationship became nothing more than hanging out and fooling around. About a year before our relationship would come to a close, a night of heavy drinking led to the “actual” deed being done. And since the damage had been done, why not just keep doing it? So from that point on our relationship took a nosedive and finally we went our separate ways. I spent that next three years remaining celibate and swore that I would not make the same mistakes in any future relationships.

I felt much guilt and regret over the course of those years. And looking back on it I felt that way because of what I was doing to her, not necessarily myself. I should have been her rock and not taken advantage as I did. You can nit-pick a relationship to death trying to figure out what went wrong, but I promise you that if you are sexually active with your significant other outside of marriage THAT is what’s wrong. If you love someone enough to have sex with him or her, then why aren’t you married? We come up with all sorts of creative and seemingly believable excuses as to why we won’t marry someone, yet we will continue to selfishly take advantage of that person’s body while possessing no respect for our own as well. It is important to understand that when you have sex with someone out of wedlock, you are consummating a marriage that doesn’t exist!! You are telling that person that they can have all of you, except your hand in marriage. When we realize that marriage is far more than a couple signatures on a piece of paper, is when we can truly start to understand why this no having sex before marriage thing is so important.

            My fiancé had also been sexually active in the past and had no real intentions of saving herself until marriage. I remember when we were first talking I had mentioned that I would not be engaging in sexual activity until I was married. She later admitted to not taking my claims seriously and entered into our relationship with expectations of sex before marriage. When she realized I was being serious she was somewhat intrigued as to why I held those beliefs so firmly. I explained to her my past experiences and gave her a brief overview of Catholic theology on the matter and she began to see the parallels between her past relationships and my own. Having come from sexually active relationships, living together was definitely a difficult task and ultimately led to our separation.  

My advice to couples who are cohabiting, whether engaged or not, is to respect each other as children of God. Furthermore, the need to live separately should be seriously discussed and followed through with. If your marriage date is close, maybe someone lives with a friend or family for the time being. If not, someone needs to move out and find a place of their own. The sacrifice may seem extreme but your relationship will benefit from it greatly. Know that marriage is more than the signing of documents and moving into the same building as the other. If you are sexually active with your future spouse, please consider learning more about the Theology of the Body and abstaining till you are both bound in marriage. Understand that marriage is a beautiful way that God channels his grace through two individuals and it is not until then that we can truly be open to life and love. I would ask that you and your significant other pray about your current sexual state and consider a life of loving sacrifice over a life of selfish desires.

As of about two weeks ago Alyssa and I decided to continue with our engagement. We are living separately until the wedding and couldn’t be happier. We have both grown so much in such a short period of time. I realized that the Lord had a plan amidst all the heartache and now I feel we are better because of it. Know that if you claim to love your significant other you will do anything to preserve your relationship. I avoided weighing this blog down with statistics and percentages because I believe that these matters, and whether they are right or wrong, are written on our hearts. Know that if you are living together before marriage the odds of your marriage lasting, or even making it to your wedding day, are not in your favor. Remember, Christ didn’t say it would be easy. He said it would be worth it!!!  

Becoming a Father at 17

I am so honored to feature this blog article from my friend, David Schonacher. David and his beautiful family are an incredible example to all of us about accepting what life brings you. Thank you for being such an amazing testimony for life!

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Am I Pro-life? Sure. Pro- Derek? Absolutely.

When a 17-year-old boy is faced with the news that his girlfriend of less than one year is pregnant, time can stand still. In those moments, he and everyone around him find themselves reciting every moral conversation, scripture or advice they’ve ever been exposed to. Without the benefit of a sound spiritual upbringing what could one possibly use to begin to make sense of the decisions before him? Decisions need to be made, not only for himself but for the future mother, her family, his family and now this new being we know nothing of.

Where did this story begin?

I was a junior in high school, defensive captain of the varsity football team, spending most of my time in the gym, on the field and finding myself wanting nothing more than to dominate anything between the tackles. This is my ground, my turf, and I’m in control. I’m an average size, below average speed middle linebacker who has a well above average heart and desire. I make up for what I lack physically with smart decisions, efficiency and overall effort. Prior to this, I had never faced any major obstacles I would consider life changing or path altering. I did however face larger pulling guards and stronger blocking backs. After short struggles with each I found a way to create success.

Shortly after Christmas break our senior year my girlfriend and I were faced with the news that she was pregnant. All the hours of training, college prep, studies, college visits and fantasies of my future stood still. All of those moments seem to pale in comparison to the news we’d just received. None of those moments on the field seemed to any longer have significance. None of my trophies provided certainty that I was capable of handling what I had just been called to. The intimate details of the moments, hours and days shortly after are foggy at best. I’m not sure my brain has ever struggled so hard in computing the problems that just fallen before us.

I’m the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family. The pressure to succeed and the self-assumed pedestal I stood myself on was crumbling beneath me. In hindsight it would seem almost as though I was losing, in those moments, the very identity I had worked so hard to create. Every decision in front of us seemed to have little to do with where we were headed prior to this information. I can recall the individual moments in front of each of our parents, the awkwardness, the uneasiness, and the shame. My father, as he often did, made jokes of it helping us bring a smile to a seemingly hopeless moment of our path in life. His efforts were effective to a degree but could not help us escape the reality of what was to become of us.

In almost an instant the relationship became no longer about her and I; but immediately a soul we had yet to meet started to chart our course. I do not recall any specific moment in any conversation where anything other than how to move forward with this child was discussed. I don’t recall any pressure to do anything but the “right thing”. But I’m a 17 year old college bound, non-spiritual boy. I am by no means qualified to make the right decision here, or am I? The conversations are mostly a blur, faded memories of supportive family counseling us, expressing their disgust, but still opening their hearts and providing even the faintest confidence that we are capable of handling the burden we’ve brought upon ourselves. I can’t recall any specific moment where the final decision, if any, was made. I cannot recall any singular moment where aborting the child was discussed. I can only recall my desire to take the burden, the struggle before me and show them all I am capable. I subtly recall the frailty we suddenly seemed to possess. I recall the sadness, perhaps a result our own insecurities. Certainly we were not qualified for what came next. I don’t recall much in the moments following about concern of what people thought. I don’t recall any friends or extended family giving any negative thoughts towards our decision to have this child. If anything, my only memory is that of a slow fade into the ocean. We became instantly not like everyone else, we instantly became different. We became that couple that was destined for something no one around us could comprehend at such a young age.

After the initial shock and emotion of the first week or so we moved slowly towards regaining the life we had. We attended functions, studied for tests and planned out our college future. It all seemed normal and possible, yet each decision now had a different and unavoidable reality. Visiting Tulane University in New Orleans made so much sense, but the reality of leaving the support of family behind made such a dream impractical, but not impossible. Our hopes and dreams were by no means crushed, but inexplicably altered. Our future, once clear and wide-open, now seemed like patchy fog at best. Our future may involve these hopes and dreams we once desired, but they were now bound by this very concrete reality.

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Fast forward 18 years, I’m now a 35 year old father to a 17 year old man. He is talented, joyful, funny and nothing like me. He has the heart of a lion, he’s three inches taller and will never play middle linebacker. He may soon become an Engineer like his father, but he’s mechanically inclined, a talent I do not possess. He’s a mess, a burden at times, but smiles like his mother. He is imaginative, creative and produces his own version of comedy while his father is calculated, dull at times and only recently found an imagination. He speaks Spanish fluently, English poorly and can recite more science facts than many museums. He played sports most of his life, perhaps only to please his father, but he is clearly charting his own course in life. He listens, strives to be a good man, but finds himself combative in talks of morals and justice. He is his own man.

I’m now a practicing Catholic for 13 years. We have a 13-year-old daughter as well. She’s an angel, the perfect combination of her Mother and Father with her own unique beauty mixed in. Until just recently I had not studied the Church’s pro-life position in any great detail. In fact, prior to this, I studied intently John Paul II and his “Theology of the Body” discussions. I spent hours upon hours reading and reflecting on the magnificence of our creation. I spent time understanding the amazing uniqueness we were each made with. I’ve spent three years now looking out at friends and family with a new perspective. Because of these revelations I’m now able to see the beauty in each and have begun to learn finally how to love and to be loved.

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At 17 years old, with little to no spiritual direction, perhaps I was intent on having this child because I refused to fail and I saw an abortion as a failure. But now I know different. I now know our gut feelings, our conscience would never allow us to consider anything else but to meet this beautiful creation of ours and to do the best we could with what we had. We were fortunate to have family support. Everyone played a part in our journey. Parents babysat for us. Grandparents sent supplies and money when needed. Friends, albeit rarely, offered time and tender support. We even found decent assistance from the local, state and federal government.

Not a day goes by that I don’t get up and go to work and genuinely desire to succeed, but no longer for myself nor for the approval of others. I knew the second I saw Derek what my purpose was. I was a father. Every step I took from that moment forward was to provide for him and to ensure his protection and salvation. Just like I failed to make the right decisions as a teenager, I have failed at times as an adult. I have had more periods of sin than purity, more episodes of shame than exalting, and more times of struggle than success. But, with Derek around I find victory each day. He is our creation shared in God’s touch. He is beautiful, unique and has no clue yet how great he can be. I suppose I am now officially “Pro-Life”, but before that I was always Pro-Derek.