Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saying "No" to Noah

Lately there have been quite a bit of big-hit movies that have Christian themes.  October Baby (my favorite), Son of God, The Bible mini-series, the upcoming Moses film and, of course, this weekend's biggest hit, "Noah."  

Yet unlike the above mentioned films, "Noah"does not strive to uphold Christian principles or promote the classic Bible story.  Instead, the falsities construed in the film are a slap in the face to Christians attending the film.

How is this so?  Let me count the ways:

 The beginning line of the film is
"In the beginning there was nothing."

It seems to be that the directors of the film also thought
that the greatest sin of all mankind was destroying the earth.  Instead of focusing on what we really know what was going on that was bad enough for God to want to start
the world from scratch again, they focus heavily on an blatant environmentalist principles.

Spoiler Alert: In this way, the film doesn't have to mention God.  Ever.


The movie also goes to extremes to create an impression that Noah just hates people.  Period.
There are a couple of instances that prove this point.
When his son's girlfriend is kidnapped by thugs, Noah
leaves her in their hands to die.
At the most shockingly false part of the film, Noah also is seen plotting to kill his unborn grandchild if it turns out to be a girl.

 So instead of the film being about how God is recreating the earth with the betterment of His children in mind, we are left with a film that describes Noah, a man anxious to just be done with the human race.  Even his own family.

Kevin Ham, the President of Answers in Genisus, who recently
debated Bill Nye the Science Guy on creation, had this to say
about the film:

"“Noah” is an insult to Bible-believing Christians, an insult to the character of Noah, and most of all, an insult to the God of the Bible. As a result, I believe Hollywood will have a much harder time in marketing future biblically themed movies to Christians."

This film earns a zero in my grade book.  What are your thoughts on the subject of Biblical films, or so called "Biblical" films?  I'd love to know!  Comment below!

God Bless!

Chloe M. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

A lot of really good things can go wrong.

For instance, playing catch with your friends:

Or singing tunes with your little sister

Even social media can go wrong sometimes. 

I'm not talking about when Facebook has a glitch, or when your Instagram won't update the feed.  I'm talking about when Social Media takes a negative toll on your life.  When your real-life relationships fall by the wayside because your screen time is invading your daily life too much. 

When you realize you can't be content anymore because all you are doing with your life is comparing it to others' seemingly perfect days, vacations, outfits, engagements, and crafts.  When your siblings become annoying because they are keeping you from talking to your Facebook friends.  When every piece of your day is subconsciously scrutinized for good tweets or stellar Instagram posts. 

That's when it's gone wrong.  That's where it was for me - so, in the words of Elsa,

Queen Elsa "Letting it Go"

But really.  It's been one day, and the relief I feel cannot be beat.

And the newfound freedom and free time? 

I think I can finally clear away expectations and comparisons of others
in order to make room for finding out who I really am.

I can finally discover who my favorite band is.  What my favorite book
is.  Hang around with siblings and not have to worry about
documenting our entire conversations for likable Facebook
posts.  Really talk out things with my parents before
going to friends who happen to be active in the chatbox that night
for emotional support and guidance. 

Watch a movie without having the preconceptions of who
like it and who didn't weighing down the experience.  Really
get to know someone without having already
judged them by their Facebook posts and tweets.

And the people I talked to online who are my friends "in real life"?
I think I can get to know them better without a screen
between us. 

It's time to straighten my priorities and find out who I am as a
child of God....and Social Media had been getting
in the way. 

God bless,


Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Struggle

It appears impossible at times.  A seemingly impossible task in a world splattered with sin and pain.  Yet the desire to pursue purity is a noble struggle indeed. 

As much as desire to, I cannot tell you that this struggle will get easier.  Or if it will even get better.  More socially acceptable.  However, I can tell you that it is worth it.  For, in the end, it is the issues that you have poured the most sweat, tears and blood into that will be the most valuable to you.

Concerning physical purity, there are things you can do to alleviate some difficulties.

The first is to avoid occasions that you know are tripping points for you.  Keep in mind that these are incredibly personal.  Stumbling blocks are as unique as you are.  What may cause you to slip and fall could be an unnoticeable pebble in the road for others.  If a recovering drug addict knows that a certain house would be conducive to regression, he should by all means avoid that house.  So to, the child of God struggling to remain pure should avoid occasions of sin specific to the vice.  That could mean not going over to a boy's house when you know that you two will be the only ones there.  That could mean closing down electronic devices when you are the only one there to keep tabs on yourself.  It could mean avoiding certain movies and music.  Yet these situations can only be identified you. 

Don't be afraid to use a two letter word that it seems we avoid more and more these days: "No."  True, it may be awkward when you have to tell your friends that you aren't going to go see that movie.  It may create some moments of silence when you tell the person you like that you can't come over, as much as every fiber of your very being is begging you to say yes.  Brian Kissinger said, "It’s better to be awkward and avoid sin than to fall into sin because we’re afraid of looking or seeming weird." 

Take advantage of Lent.  It is through Lent that we deny ourselves small things as a practice field of denying ourselves the sinful desires offered to us by this world.  So while not drinking coffee during the week may give you a HUGE caffeine headache (I know by experience that it does!), think of it as training to say no to something bigger when it comes. 

Build up strong walls.  Not physically.  That would be weird.  No - with people.  Surround yourself with those who are in the same mindset as you are.  A goal is more attainable when you know people are going to ask you about it.  If you want to run a 5K, but you don't ask anyone for tips or tell them about your goal, how easy will it be to give up on that goal?  The only person you are disappointing is yourself.  But if you tell lots of people about it and train with them, the less likely you are to give up on your goal.  Even if it's just asking someone to text you once a week and ask you how God is working in your life, you're much better off than trying to ride the struggle bus solo.  Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

The struggle is real....but so is the success.  You can do this.  I believe in you... and more importantly, so does God.

Chloe M.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Catholic On Campus

Ah, college.  The time of life where we dedicate hours to studying, reading, and banging our head against the wall in frustration.  When a majority of our budget goes to tuition, books, and a ridiculous amount of coffee.  In the midst of this crazy time, we also may have to encounter face-to-face anti-Catholic bias from our teachers, friends, family or roommates.  How do we deal with these issues?  While each incident most definitely requires it's own judgement, I've decided to present the Catholic counter to many questions you may be asked during your time on campus (and even after graduation!)

The first topic.....Priestly Celibacy.

This is a big one.  I've been on a college campus and have run across this topic quite a bit.  Unfortunately, it's usually brought up as a last resort from people making an anti-Catholic argument - a final stab, if you will, concerning the celibacy of priests.  This has become increasingly popular due to the sex abuse scandals (particularly those involving minors) in the Church.  Let's take a look at the basics of priestly celibacy in order to establish a good foundation.

Point One: Priestly Celibacy is not a dogma or doctrine of the Church

If the person you are discussing this subject with knows their Bible, they will inevitably direct you to Mark 1:30, which says, "Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her."  Following a logical thought process, one can assume that you can't really have a mother-in-law sans a wife.  Your questioner may also point out that since Peter was married, he couldn't have been the first pope, or that Catholics invented the idea of a celibate priesthood, and the concept isn't biblical.  

It is here that you can shock their socks off by telling them that celibacy is not the norm for a lot of Catholic priests.  For instance, Eastern rite Catholic priests are typically married, as well as those in the Orthodox and Oriental. Granted, there are restrictions, such as if one is married upon ordination, following the death of one's wife, remarriage is not allowed.  Also, Eastern bishops are not allowed to be married.

So where did this practice come from?  Priests and bishops have taken a vow of celibacy in the Western and Latin Church since the middle ages. Yet even here there are exceptions - someone who is a Lutheran minister who converts to Catholicism and is ordained a priest can still be married.  

Moral of point one: Priests taking a vow of celibacy is not a concrete dogmatic practice of the Church.  Rather, it is a disciplinary rule practiced by members of the Church.  

Point Two: Priests do not take a vow of celibacy because they believe sex is bad.

No one gives up something they do not desire.  A prime example of this is found during Lent.  When your little brother tells you he decided to give up peanut butter for Lent, and you know that he hates peanut butter, you have to smile at his "sacrifice."  It's like giving up homework for Lent.  Big deal.  

The real sacrifice comes when you give up something you want.  So, if I was to give up coffee for Lent, it would be a struggle (and you probably would only want to talk to me on Sundays).  So, for a priest to take a vow of celibacy does not mean that he thinks sex is bad.  Rather, he is directly saying with the action of this vow, "Sex is a beautiful gift of God.  Marriage is a beautiful way in which humans are able to interact with God in concern to bonding and procreation."  The act of sacrificing this ability to interact physically with other humans and with God in the procreation of the soul in fact points to the glorious gift of sex and marriage in the Christian life.  

Point Three: Celibacy isn't only for priests.

While we most commonly think of priests or other religious who have taken a vow of chastity when we said the word "celibate," the term actually applies to a lot more people than we realize.  If you are unmarried, you are called to be celibate.  The Catholic Church recognizes that the only place for sex is marriage between a man and a woman.  So if you are a priest, you shouldn't be having sex.  If you are a single, you shouldn't be having sex.  If you are divorced sans annulment, you shouldn't be having sex.  People are called to chastity - regardless of their vocation. Ultimately, sex is a marital blessing, not a free-for-all-whenever-you-feel-like-it activity.  

Point Four: Priests who sin does not a Catholic Church ruin

Catholicism is not defined by a handful of men who do not understand what it means to be a priest.  The Church in no way ever glorifies or celebrates the decision that a vowed priest has made to break his vow of chastity with anyone.  There have been examples in the Church of attempts to cover up or ignore obvious issues of abuse (either of minors or adults).  In no way is this practice condoned by The Church as a whole.  To prove this point, Pope Francis has recently spoken out concerning the sex abuse scandal in the Church, and has formed a committee to discuss how to deal with post-abuse victims, how to better screen for seminary, keep up on priests with issues and provide support to the Church.  

Point Five: It's not just Catholic Priests.
Catholic clergy aren't more likely to abuse children than other clergy or men in general.
 According to the best available data (which is pretty good, mostly coming from a comprehensive report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004, as well as several other studies), 4 percent of Catholic priests in the USA sexually victimized minors during the past half century. No evidence has been published at this time that states that this number is higher than clergy from other religious traditions. The 4 percent figure is lower than school teachers (at 5 percent) during the same time frame and perhaps as much as half of the numbers of the general population of men. (Do the Right Thing,, March 24, 2010)  

Point Six: It's about anticipation of a sweeter song.

Catholic celibate priesthood is an incredible way of anticipation of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 22:30 says "For in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in Heaven."   While marriage here on earth gives humans a taste of what Heaven will be like and an incredible opportunity to interact with God in the creation of another soul, it is just that - a taste.  Heaven is a complete adoration and giving to God out of complete trust.  When people who are married go to Heaven, they have a vocational change - their marriage was able to bring them closer to Heaven, and now that goal has been reached.  But when those who have pledged their earthly lives to God reach the goal of Heaven, they have the easiest transition of all - they have been practicing for this their entire lives!

Hopefully this helps give a basic knowledge for the case of defense for the Catholic position of priestly celibacy.  If you have any questions, situations where you have had to defend this subject that you'd like to share, or other thoughts, please post so in the comments below!

God bless!

Chloe M. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"See anything, old chap?"
In Search of "Fairness"

One of my all time favorite parables in the Gospels is found in Matthew chapter 20.  In it's simplest form, the story basically runs as such:  There is a man who owns a vineyard, which is in need of labor.  He goes out to find workers in the early morning.  Some people agree to work, and after settling on a wage they both agree on, they head into the fields.  The work continues to be in need of laborers, so the owner goes out multiple times during the day to hire more people.  At the end of the day, he pays everyone.  The morning workers began to become agitated because those who worked less time still got the same monetary compensation.

I always remember thinking, "Why are they so up-tight about this?  It's the owner's money, he can do whatever he wanted to with it."  Now that I'm out in the "real world," I'm beginning to sympathize more and more with the morning workers.  

We try to define "fairness" quite a lot in this society nowadays.  We are told to treat everyone equally, everyone should get the same portion, and we all just need to agree and get along.  What is the definition of fairness?

The dictionary has over twenty entries in attempt to define the word "fair."  What is basically boils down to is "Just and honest, consistent with rules and logic."  Yet we tend to define it as "everyone gets the same thing."  How boring.  Ho - hum.  We all get the same thing.

NO!  God's fairness in your life doesn't mean that you get the same thing as your coworkers, classmates, siblings or best friends.  Do you not know that you were created as a beautifully unique child of God? Do you know that every person that has ever walked or will walk this earth does so because they were loved into existence by God? That the only thing that keeps your blood coursing through your veins and air rushing through your lungs is because God. Loves. You.  

Fairness doesn't mean everyone gets
the same cookie-cutter treatment. 
Amazingly, love is not simply one of God's characteristics.  He's not tall, dark, handsome and loving.  His very essence is love.  Due to this, every one of His children is surrounded by love.  Yet because of their unique traits (meaning we all aren't robotic clones of each other - there is some beautiful differences existent in humans) we each are loved differently.  

The point I'm trying to get at here is what is fair for one person is not fair for another person.  God treats all of His children fairly, but the fact that we try to use "fairness" as a blanket statement goes against who God is.  God is not a blanket statement kind of guy.  He is a treat-you-as-uniquely-as-you-are kind of loving Dad.  
Every child in your family is not loved the same way - yet they are all loved.  The freedoms granted to some children are not given to each other.  For instance:  I leave every morning and go to class.  I pull out the garage in a truck that I am given the privilege to drive (not the right).  However, my little sister who is two years old does not get to drive the truck, as much as she wants to.  Yet her truck driving privileges (or lack thereof) does not mean that our parents love me more and her less.  Both of our driving statuses are "fair."  Yet they are not "identical."  Thus, fairness should not connote equality.

God has  plan for your life that is as beautiful and amazing as you are.  Its not going to look just like everyone else's plans, though.  It's going to be incredible.  Trust Him....even when it doesn't look like you think it should.

God bless,

Chloe M. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

It is neither celibacy nor promiscuity. It applies to every aspect, stage, and area of every life. It is often looked down upon, misunderstood, and everyone has a different opinion on it. But what is it? Chastity. To combine holiness, which is supernatural, with our very natural bodies. Chastity is striving for a healthy body and soul. Pope John Paul II once said,

"Only the chaste man and the chaste woman are capable

of true love."

- Pope John Paul II

At first, these words seem a little harsh. C'mon, only chaste couples are capable of true love? It's not a very casual statement. After all, chastity can not only be a touchy subject, but it is- let's face it- hard. It may not be hard to ask yourself, "how can I treat my physiognomy with holiness today and use it to lead others to Christ?", but it sure is hard to actually treat oneself and others with holiness in practice. 
For example, when you marry someone, you love them body and soul. To borrow a definition from Saint Thomas Aquinas, love is wanting the best for the beloved.

Obviously, the absolute best is union with Our Lord. It's a simple but difficult truth, as wishing somebody heaven means you also wish them holiness. If I were in love, I would want my partner to be as holy as humanly possible, right? The hard part is that, if we ladies want our husbands or boyfriends to follow Our Lord, we must deny them certain things in turn, as they must deny us. 

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you
    by the gazelles and by the does of the field:
Do not arouse or awaken love
    until it so desires. -Song of Songs 2:7

But what does chastity have to do with love? Precisely that. I used to think that the commandment not to sleep with a man unless you're married to him was a little strict, but it actually makes so much sense. When you are sexually involved with another person, you are joined into one (Genesis 2:24; a woman's body actually releases a 'bonding hormone'). So you are giving a piece of yourself, whether you love them, they love you, or not, and you are taking a piece of them (in this way, contrary to what those weird scientists keep telling us, God has sort of designed us for fidelity; who'd have thought?). Pleasure is all very well while it lasts, but if you give yourself away continually, how much will be left to give to your spouse? In much the same way, even if one is already in love when they become intimately involved, one is disrespecting the soul and body of the beloved, although they are trying to show love. Not only does it send the message that one is perfectly okay with sex outside of marriage, but also that "you please me, but are not worth a promise of faithfulness". That is not real love or real respect; it is not an expression of 'freedom'. It is a grave degradation of our sacredness as human beings. Our bodies are living tabernacles- we receive Jesus in the Eucharist with them!

You are not your own. You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your bodies. -1 Corinthians 6: 19-20

Ladies, don't give yourselves to situations that, far from leading to true love and happy marriages, lead away from them. It not only involves one partner in sin for submitting to the relationship, but encourages the other to sin because they are not shown that there is a better way to love. Chaste love is saying "no", even if you both want to. Chaste love is not based on cheapened intimacy, or sex that is devoid of beauty, but on God's plan to give a complete 'gift of self', to each other exclusively, in holy matrimony. To love chastely is to wait, falling in love with the heart and personality of another so that they can love the body with more awe and reverence once they have married it. 
Beautiful as it is, chastity seems absolutely impossible at times. Do we really have to nix intimacy until we're married? And why is it so dang hard to find modest clothing nowadays?! 

The thing is that chastity is impossible. For us. But not for Him. With His guidance, chaste living becomes a challenging, but wonderful, journey of dignity and great joy. Chastity is divine, of of God's greatest gifts to His people. I can't imagine being gladly chaste on my own, but I know that I can with Christ. We all can. And our relationships will lead to Paradise because of it. 

 "Chastity is a difficult, long term matter; one must wait patiently for it to bear fruit, for the happiness of loving kindness which it must bring. But at the same time, chastity is the sure way to happiness."

-Pope John Paul II 

*This post was provided by the lovely Grace. Grace is an introverted writer-person who likes cats, busy with surviving high school and converting to Roman Catholicism (Tiber Swim Team '14, baby!). She is struggling with chaste living, and considered it a great honour to write this post. Pax et bonum. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Road of the Mass

I heard about this beautiful analogy in comparison of the Mass to the Road to Emmaus journey found in the Gospel of Luke 24: 13-35 this Friday night at youth group, and I wanted to share my thoughts about it with you.

In this story, two of Christ's followers were walking the road to Emmaus, a town about seven miles away from Jerusalem.  The topic of discussion is, of course, the death and passion of the Lord that has recently occurred.  Suddenly, a man joins the companions and walks with them.  Unknown to them, this new traveler is Christ himself.  He asks what the men are talking about and they probably looked at him as if he was crazy.  They ask him, "Are you the only one who has been visiting Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have happened these days?"

Jesus plays dumb and asks, "What things?"  The men go on to explain how Christ was supposed to be savior of the people of God, but even though he spoke of the Kingdom of God, he was still handed over to the Chief Priests who brutally murdered him.  To  make things even more confusing, they said they knew some women who had been to the tomb that very day, the third day, and came back saying Christ was alive.  They probably looked to Christ for confirmation of the women' insanity, but he shocks them.

He turns to them and says, "How foolish you are and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken? Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? Then he went on to explain, from the beginning of the Bible, all the way to their current time, the prophesies concerning the Lord.  

Then they reached their destination, and they begged their companion to stay with them for a meal. It was finally that they clued in about the very presence of the Lord when He broke bread with them.  They asked each other "Where not our hearts burning within us when He talked with us on the road?"  Christ had left, but they returned to Jerusalem to tell the 11 about how Christ had appeared to them.

They. Returned. Immediately.   They did not wait until morning and the roads were safe, and they had rested and ate their fill.  No, the desire to share the light of Christ was stronger then anything else.  This is similar to how the apostles in today's Gospel left behind everything RIGHT AWAY and left to follow Christ.  

Now look at the Mass.  We come to the Mass and we all have our burdens that we carry and discuss.  Work was trying.  School was crazy.  Relationships are struggling.  Friendships need mending.  We come to Mass with something to get off our chest.  We want to talk to someone about how we can live a Christian life in a world broken and torn.  We come into Mass and here is the Lord in the tabernacle.  He doesn't look like much....most of the time we don't even recognize Him as He is under the appearance of the host.  We began to tell Him all of our problems and He stops us.  

"Oh ye of little you not think I know of the day to day occurrences of your life?  Do you not know that I have a plan for you?"  And then He, through the words of the lectors and cantors, brings the liturgy of the word to life.  We read two readings from the Bible as well as a Psalm and things come together.  We hear God's very words in the Gospel, and then things are explained through the scripture.

And then comes the liturgy of the Eucharist....the source and summit of Christian life. And, just like the two on the road to Emmaus, we should have our eyes opened to the true presence of Christ.  Not a symbol, but the Lord Himself.  When we leave the Mass, our hearts should be on fire for a God who died to get to know you.

And when we leave from the Mass, we shouldn't go back to comfort.  "Oh, well I'll get to Christian living when I don't have to do anything else."  On the contrary....we should leave every Mass more in line with Christ and His love for us every time.  Every Mass should change our hearts and mold them to God.  

God grant us the grace to let every encounter with you in the Eucharist set our hearts ablaze for you!

God bless,

Chloe M.